Be an advocate for mental health

One in five adults in the United States experience mental illness. Mental Health First Aid teaches you how to assist and support someone that may be struggling.

Two young men talking.

Each year, the World Health Organization recognizes October 10 as World Mental Health Day. The goal of this day is to raise awareness of mental health issues globally and to increase efforts that support mental health and well-being around the world.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and it affects how we think, feel and act.” Like physical health, mental health can range from healthy to unwell overtime depending on many factors. Mental illness, or mental health disorders, include conditions such as depression and anxiety. If left untreated, they can have an impact on daily life. A large-scale study led by researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Queensland showed that one out of every two people in the world will develop a mental health disorder in their lifetime.

Mental illnesses are some of the most common conditions in the United States. The CDC estimates that approximately one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year. There are many people living with mental health issues and not receiving the support and care they deserve because of lack of access to treatment, stigma, fear and other barriers.

In fact, according to Mental Health America (MHA), over half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. The shortage of mental health providers may contribute to this statistic. MHA reports that there are an estimated 350 individuals for every one mental health provider. In rural areas, access to mental health providers may be even more limited. Being an advocate for mental health by increasing behavioral health literacy through training such as Mental Health First Aid can help bridge the gap between initial concern and appropriate treatment and support.

Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based program that teaches participants the skills to assist and support someone that may be struggling with a mental health challenge or crisis. In Mental Health First Aid training, participants learn how to openly communicate about mental health concerns and issues, how to respond, and what evidence-based treatments are available. Mental Health First Aid teaches a five-step action plan referred to as ALGEE. The acronym stands for:

  • Access for risk of suicide or harm.
  • Listen nonjudgmentally.
  • Give reassurance and information.
  • Encourage appropriate professional help.
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies. 

Be it World Mental Health Day or any day of the year, participating in Mental Health First Aid training to learn more is a great first step in advocating for mental health. Knowing how to assist and support someone who may be struggling with a mental health challenge or crisis could help save a life.

Michigan State University Extension offers online Mental Health First Aid trainings throughout the year in addition to other social emotional learning programs such as Stress Less with Mindfulness, and RELAX Alternatives to Anger.

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